Our Trip To Los Angeles, February 2002

by Michelle Erica Green

We were supposed to fly out Saturday at a little after 3 p.m. to get into LAX before 9, so we got to the airport bright and early (before 1) in case of security backups. Everything went very fast and we ended up having a leisurely lunch at TGI Friday and schmoozing the stores. At 3:30 they announced that our plane had a fuel leak, which they would try to repair. By 4:15 they said they had not yet found the source of the leak, but that they couldn't move anyone with checked luggage onto the 5:45 flight because security restrictions forbade them from sending our luggage on without us. Finally, at nearly 6, they announced that they were getting us a new plane and moving all the luggage. We didn't take off till close to 7, but at least we had a non-eventful flight (I actually stayed awake through both movies, Riding In Cars With Boys and Bandits -- I expected the like the first because of Drew Barrymore and not like the second because of Bruce Willis, but I actually found the first tedious and the second very well-done--Bruce and Billy Bob Thornton play robbers who both fall in love with the same woman and agree to share her, and although they don't actually have a three-way in the movie you just know they're heading in that direction).

So we got in after 9 Pacific time, which was after midnight at home. Both boys were wide awake and keeping up a running commentary all the way through the drive to Stevenson Ranch, where my uncle Mickey lives. I had not realized that Stevenson Ranch is part of Santa Clarita, where my in-laws are currently staying in their trailer, so we realized we would be able to see them the next day very easily. We got to my uncle's right when he got back from a dinner party along with his second wife Lesley and son Garrett, who is a little older than Adam. The boys played Power Rangers for an hour -- fortunately it took until the next morning for our kids to discover that Garrett has Nintendo.

Our boys got to sleep after midnight Pacific time (3 a.m. based on when they woke up that morning) and were awake by 7:30 the next morning after sharing a room with Garrett (we slept in the freezing cold guest room -- somehow we brought clouds and rain with us!) We all had breakfast together and I ran out to the store with my uncle to get food for that evening, when both my cousins and their husbands intended to come for dinner; Lesley spent literally all day cooking. We called my in-laws to see if they wanted to drop by and she invited them for dinner.

So after a couple of hours at a local park, which was beautiful -- Santa Clarita is sort of the valley past The Valley, ringed by mountains and with a lot of native trees and shrubs rather than palms, with parks at the tops of hills overlooking housing developments with vaguely Spanish architecture disrupted by mountains and patches of desert -- we went home to get the sand out of the boys' clothes. Lesley's brother came for dinner as well as my in-laws, my cousin Felicia and her husband Jason, and my cousin Allison whose husband had gotten stuck working and didn't make it though I talked to him on the phone. My mother called in the middle of dinner and wailed that she wasn't there to see everyone, especially when she found out that at that moment we were looking through Mickey's Bar Mitzvah album and howling at photos of her when she was 16.

After everyone left, Lesley fell asleep while reading to Garrett so Paul, Mickey and I watched the ice dance original programs and waited up to see the Canadian pairs get their gold medals (nothing like a show of false adoration for the cameras -- I couldn't decide who was better coached in the good-sport department, Jamie and David or Elena and Anton). In the morning we all had breakfast together, then we drove with the kids to Sherman Oaks, where Felicia and Jason live. We had lunch with them and Felicia's mother, Carol, and her second husband Jeffrey (divorce or no divorce, she is still my aunt). Felicia's house is beautiful and we had a really nice, low-key time with them; Carol had brought Bionicle toys for the boys to keep them busy and Lesley and Mickey had gotten them Power Rangers toys so they have been very good at keeping themselves entertained. Carol is a caterer and brought her own egg and tuna salad and we had bagels, rugelach, hamantaschen for Purim since we missed all the carnivals at the temple and JCC back home this weekend, and lots of leftover Valentine candy.

Then we drove to the Foley's, about ten minutes away in Northridge, where my kids proceeded to interrogate Lynda's kids about various Gameboy and Nintendo secrets while we caught up with Lynda and Dan. We all went out to the Olive Garden for dinner (with Adam trying to impress Lynda's teenager Dustin with his knowledge of synonyms for "weenie" and Daniel trying to explain multi-digit long division to Jonathan who is apparently not a math person as Daniel is, but has a very creative idea for a 'Buffy' episode involving dead vampire dust). In the evening while Dustin and Jonathan did homework, we made our boys write in their journals, as did I.

We had breakfast at the Foleys' then drove back out to Valencia, the valley past the Valley, to meet Paul's parents. We had lunch at their trailer in the mountains near Magic Mountain (15 rollercoasters, which looked impressive but we didn't see them close up because it's closed on weekdays). Then we went hiking at Vasquez Rocks, which are spectacular jutting spurs of sediment sticking up from the desert (we were warned about bobcats and rattlesnakes but I guess it was the wrong season for both -- we saw only hawks, crows, and one woman on a horse). There was a crew there filming a Bud Light commercial, so we got to watch them -- they were putting up Old West signs and trying to make it look like there was a bucking bull in the back of a pickup truck (bull apparently to be added later through the miracle of digital imaging). We climbed most of the way up the biggest rocks, where I took pictures of boys in the little caves and crevices. This is the area where the original 'Star Trek' episode "Arena" was filmed as well as hundreds of old Westerns, so it's all quite familiar; the artistic director from the commercial said he could show us exactly where Kirk discovered the sulfur deposit and where the Ponderosa should be.

After stopping for ice cream, we went back to my in-laws' trailer for awhile and wandered around the campground; apparently rabbits come out in the evening and sometimes coyotes, but we didn't see them. There's a nice play area for kids though and two pools. A number of the trailers apparently belong to permanent residents; they have big cactus displays in front, some of the typical trailer park flamingos and flags. The kids barbecued hot dogs for dinner and we made s'mores but didn't eat anything else because we were going to meet the Foleys and the Stillwells at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Clarita. There we had very good tostadas and chatted for about three hours about the entertainment industry, religion, disgusting things Deb has seen in her job as an ER nurse, whether Gene Roddenberry would be rolling over in his grave about Enterprise and the like. Deb is afraid the waiters were listening and she will never be able to go back to the restaurant.

Dustin was sick the next morning and our kids were still with my in-laws -- they slept in the trailer -- so we played it low-key and hung out with Lynda until lunchtime. We tried to visit Sue Henley and her newborn, but the baby had an ear infection so she was headed out to the doctor. That night Annmarie came over and we had dinner together, the first time I'd seen her since our 2000 trip to L.A.

After a morning in Hollywood at the Entertainment Museum and Graumann's Chinese Theater (with concomitant souvenir shops and tattoo parlors glaring across the street), we went to the wedding rehearsal at the Japanese Gardens a.k.a. Starfleet Academy. I knew the gardens themselves were lovely but no one told us it was also a bird sanctuary -- we rehearsed on a bridge over a pond with pelicans, coots, cormorants, snowy egrets, herons and dozens of smaller birds flying over and gliding underneath. We met Molly, who was too panicked for us to get a real sense what she might be like as a person, but Adam had a wonderful time with her four-year-old daughter (though we did catch them picking azaleas which is technically a felony in a preserve). Afterwards we had dinner at David's restaurant Real Food Daily, which is entirely vegan, so the pate was made of lentils and walnuts and the soba noodles came with tempeh and peanut sauce...everything was incredible, particularly the coconut "creme" pie.

Friday morning we went to the beach with Paul's youngest brother, Jon, and his wife Brooke. It was magnificent...we went first to the sandy side of Point Dume with the gulls and sandcrabs, plus big rocks near the end of the point with lots of mussels and snails on them, then we climbed over the mountain (in 90 degree heat, though mitigated by ocean breeze -- gotta love L.A. in the winter) to the other side, where the beach is all tidepools full of starfish, urchins, small crabs, and other things we haven't seen since we were in Maine and which I didn't know could be found in the Pacific so far south. The beach was almost totally deserted and the kids built sandcastles on the sandy side.

In the afternoon we met up with my uncle Mickey and cousin Garrett to go miniature golfing with Lynda at a place where she takes her boys; our boys were a little fried and had a hard time being competitive so we stopped keeping score (though I am sure Mickey, a real golfer, won with Lynda a close second) and focused on the entertaining castles and mock-candy houses on the course. Then we ordered Domino's pizza and cinnamon stix from the car and all came back to Lynda's to eat. In the evening Lynda had to take Dustin to a dance at a country club in Sherman Oaks, so I went with her to drive and we stopped at a New Age bookstore with lots of our favorite stuff -- buffalo teeth, saints' charms, Kabalah, Tarot, etc. When we got home she read my cards (Jupiter and the Emperor in one five-card reading; obviously I have issues with patriarchy coming up in my future) and we watched the figure skating exhibition from the Olympics.

Saturday was the wedding, though we went out to brunch first with the Foleys at a nearby pancake place and stuffed ourselves on muffins and eggs. The wedding ceremony conducted by my father-in-law was very short, on the bridge over the water at the Japanese Gardens, with vegan wedding cake and champagne afterwards in the tea house. Pelicans and storks were in attendance as well as about 70 guests. Molly's four-year-old had a meltdown toward the end of the proceedings, but our boys were wonderful walking down the aisle and posing for pictures.

In the evening we went to David and Molly's house for a four-course vegan dinner. They had brought in tables and had the house (surrounded by enormous palm trees and bird of paradise plants) and patio around the swimming pool lit only by candles. The food was incredible, like nothing I had ever had before -- celery and leek soup, pureed parsnips and some sort of radish salad, a main course of mushroom-walnut pate and some sort of chocolate cake made without milk or eggs. We went back to the Foleys to get the boys to bed at a semi-reasonable hour and sat up chatting with them until late.

We left very early Sunday to avoid airport hassles, though we hit a huge one since someone apparently got off the Enterprise rental van with our garment bag (we hoped there were no more weddings in the immediate future as we thought we would have to replace all our dress clothes and shoes, though it turned up the next morning and Dulles called us to return it). Lynda gave me a jade Guan-Yin pendant and got the boys Power Rangers toys. The flight was uneventful -- same movies we saw flying out, in reverse order, with some fabulous views of the canyons of the southwest after takeoff over the Pacific. We got home around 10 and I dowlnoaded pictures.